© 1999 - 2003 League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham and
League of Women Voters of the United States



The Voter

August 2003

A Publication of the League of Women Voters of Greater Birmingham.
Re-formatted here for web publication with index and links added. Web Editor's navigational notes added in [bracketed italics].

      INDEX



President's Message

The League summer in Birmingham, traditionally quiet, has been anything but. The Sept. 9th Election Day on the Tax Reform & Accountability Amendment means everyone, Leaguers and other groups across the state, have been working hard to organize for educating and convincing Alabamians to vote Yes on Amendment One. Now itís time for the push. Elsewhere in this newsletter is our argument for passage of the Amendment. Please read it thoughtfully and join in the effort in whatever way you can. It is extremely important that we all talk to all our friends and families about the importance of passing this tax package.

Our traditional Membership meeting, the one to which we bring potential League members, will focus on the Tax Amendment. It will be just two days before the vote Ė an excellent time to convince those few holdouts to vote yes. It will also be an excellent way to highlight the League to your contacts. We need as many of you as possible to attend and bring friends, neighbors, offspring, spouses, and significant others. Details on the event are in this Voter.

Lastly, remember that we changed our dues system a year ago. All dues of $40.00 or $60.00 for a family are due September 15th. You can pay them at the meeting on the 7th or send a check to Yvonne Brakefield, our treasurer.

Sarah McDonald - President




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Q & A on Tax Reform & Accountability Amendment

Mark Your Calendar for September 7th
Where: Auditorium of Alabama School of Fine Arts
Time: 3 Ė 5 pm
Need more details? Contact Nancy Eckberg at 967-2897 or nanekberg@aol.com

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Get the Facts on Tax Reform & Accountability

The Tax Reform Package up for a vote on September 9 embodies fundamental reforms that the League has advocated since it first began studying state taxes in the late 1959. The vote could also mark a major turning point toward good or ill in Alabamiansí willingness to undertake other fundamental reforms, like Constitutional changes.

Over the last year Anne Permaloff and Sarah McDonald have represented LWVAL in a coalition called The Citizensí Commitment, composed of non-profit organizations like Arise, A+ and Voices for Alabama Children. Citizensí Commitment was formed to work parallel to the Campaign For Alabama, the tax reform group that grew out of the Business Council for Alabama. Both of these coalitions, supporters of funding and reforms for education, and the League have all worked hard for the package in the Special Session. Now, as so many have said, comes the hard part.

The League and League members as individuals are uniquely qualified to fight the battle of the next few weeks, persuading citizens to study the package and to think for themselves and using our grassroots skills to enlist others to work for passage. Excellent resources are available from Campaign for Alabama (with the participation of the state Finance Department and PARCA, the Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama) for the difficult job of correcting the misinformation being spread by opponents, replying to legitimate concerns, and overcoming citizensí knee-jerk reactions to taxes. In most cases the job is to educate citizens about what is actually in the package.

For example, some now oppose the package because they or their relatives are fairly large landowners who fear property tax increases. They should be asked if their holdings exceed 2,000 acres. For the 95% of Alabamians who own less than 2,000 acres, the current use classification will remain. A new farmstead exemption of 200 acres or $150,000 of improvements will protect 200 acres from any tax. Because the average size of farms in Alabama is 189 acres, the 70% of farms in the state that are under 200 acres will pay little or no increased taxes. The chief tax burden will fall on the very largest landowners because their acreage in excess of 2,000 acres will not be classified as current use but taxed at full market value. Over four years, current use values will rise by 22%, but only up to a cap of $650 per acre for farm land and $715 for timber land. Overall, property taxes on farmers and timber land owners will still be lower in Alabama than in every surrounding state. This example illustrates the way the fairness principle is applied. Another criterion for the reforms is that Alabamaís tax burden must remain equal to or below that of our sister southern states for each kind of taxes. Thus no businesses will be encouraged to leave Alabama for another southern state with lower taxes.

WHAT INDIVIDUAL LEAGUE MEMBERS CAN DO

1. Talk about the need for tax reform and the specifics of the package everywhere you go every day, in Sunday Schools, garden clubs, book groups, at work and in the neighborhoods. Donít wait for the subject to come up. Be bold! Initiate!

2. Employ every formal or informal network you have. Contact people you know who are influential in the community, or sectors of it, provide the information and urge them to support the package publicly. Consider especially all lower income groups, who have the most to gain and may not be inclined to vote for various reasons. Seniors will pay no state property tax on their homes. In the accountability bills, the Reading Initiative, nationally recognized and now only in pilot schools that can pay, will be funded in every school. Mention scholarships for state college for students with B averages.

3. Write Letters to the Editor in our own name as an individual citizen.
Use the resource materials provided to your league or the web sites to address one or two issues at a time. Reply immediately to letters of opposition. Several responses to each negative letter would be good. See Governorís web site for lists of newspapers. The Governorís web sites as quotes from supporters. The power point sections are useful.

4. Listen to talk radio shows and call in to support the package and to provide accurate information on topics discussed. Resource materials will address most points. A list of talk shows is on the Governorís web site.

5. Encourage people to calculate the changes in their taxes, using the Governorís web site or volunteer to provide them with hard copies for them to do so. Contact Campaign for Alabama for help if needed. For example, 67% of those filing tax returns will pay the same or less in income taxes.

Remember the LWVUS Ed Fundís survey about 5 years ago: The number one reason people go to the polls to vote is that friends and acquaintances urge them to go. Research showed it took 4 different askings. Local League members can produce those four askings if they work at it.

RESOURCES

Campaign for Alabama publications are available at 334-263-6544 or through www.campaignforalabama.com. These include:

  • a small booklet with much of the information in the power point
  • Talking Points and Frequently Asked Questions
  • A list of members of Citizensí Commitment
Governorís Web Site: www.governor.state.al.us. Click on Laying Foundations for Greatness. Contents include a summary of the tax plan, a detailed briefing on the tax plan, list of radio talk shows for supporters to call in and support the plan, list of newspapers for supporters to write Letters to the Editor, Top Ten Reasons to reform (useful for flyers), list of quotes from people supporting the plan.

Public Affairs Research Council of Alabama (PARCA) at http://parca.samford.edu. Has or soon will have a way to calculate the effect of changes in both state and federal income taxes.

Summary of our situation:
  • The tax plan achieves the following goals:
    • It includes major accountability reforms
    • It is fair for all Alabamians
    • Alabamaís tax burden (for each kind of tax) will remain equal to or below that of our sister southern states
  • The consequences of failure are unacceptable
  • We can finally achieve our potential if we will invest in Alabama

If we invest in Alabama:
  • Essential programs for seniors, schools, & prisons can operate on a sound basisónot crisis to crisis
  • Alabama can invest in support for schools and innovative programs like college scholarships and the Alabama Reading Initiative
  • New accountability standards can fundamentally change the way we do business in Montgomery

For more information about Tax Reform or the League in general please call members of the Board.

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LETTER FROM MEMBERSHIP CHAIR

Dear Members,

September 7th will be an opportunity to invite one or more friends to learn about the amendment and about the League. The meeting will be our annual membership meeting and you are encouraged to bring as many friends as you can. If you would like a personal invitation sent to someone, call Nancy Ekberg at 967-2897 or e-mail her at nanekberg@aol.com and she will send out an invitation. Letís make this a great beginning for the year, for the state of Alabama and for the League!

Nancy Ekberg Ė Membership Chair


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THE LEAGUE OF WOMEN VOTERS OF GREATER BIRMINGHAM
invites you to join us for a panel discussion of
THE TAX AND ACCOUNTABILITY CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT
with
NATALIE DAVIS, Political Science Professor, Birmingham-Southern College
SCOTT DOUGLAS, Executive Director, Greater Birmingham Ministries
GARY YOUNGBLOOD, Director, Parnership for Alabama's Grassroots, North and Central Alabama.

WHEN: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 7TH FROM 3:00 TO 5:00 P.M.
WHERE: ALABAMA SCHOOL OF FINE ARTS
8TH AVENUE NORTH AT 18TH STREET

QUESTIONS? CALL US AT 967-2829 or 967-9186

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LWVGB Voter Service

The LWVGB Voters Service provided a booth with voter registration and information about the September Accountability and Tax Constitution Amendment at the Alabama School of Fine Arts Open House for students and family on August 10. Providing information at the booth were (L to R) Beverly Nelson, Sheila Daniels, Kathryn Kerchof and not pictured Rebecca Stafford and Virginia Randolph.

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LWVGB Board of Directors 2002-2003

LWVGB
3357 Cherokee Road
Birmingham, Al. 35223
Phone: (205) 968-9186
http://www.bham.net/lwvgb

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About the Voter:

The LWVGB Voter is a publication of the League of Women Voter of
Greater Birmingham.

Voter Contact:
Kathyn Kerchof, Editor
4117 Shiloh Dr. Birmingham, 35213
Ph: (205) 802-7215
Email: kerchof@bellsouth.com

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CALENDAR OF COMING ATTRACTIONS

Tuesday,
September 2
LWVGB Board Meeting
3357 Cherokee Road
6 pm
Sunday,
September 7
General Meeting on the Tax Accountability Amendment
Alabama School of Fine Arts
3 pm
Tuesday,
September 9
Election Day
7 a.m.-7 p.m.
Tuesday,
October 7
LWVGB Board Meeting
3357 Cherokee Road
6 p.m.
Thursday,
October 23
General Brown Bag Dinner
Meeting on the U.S. Patriot Act
Location TBA
6:30 p.m.

Correction: The Bill to Recompile the Alabama Constitution passed the Alabama Legislature and has been referred to the Alabama Code Commission.This is not a Constitutional Amendment; therefore does not require the vote of the people as stated in the previous Voter. If you are interested in knowing more about this issue please contact Cary Page, Voter Service -- Education

September is Renwal Month!
Remember that September is dues renewal month for all those who have not recently joined or recently paid.. Please send your check for $40 (single) or $60 (family) to Yvonne Brakefield at 3451 Cliff Road South, Birmingham 35205 or give it to her at the September 7th meeting.

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